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Group protests megachurch pastor's firing

Sunday - 4/22/2012, 4:54pm  ET

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Protesters outside the Jericho City of Praise church in Landover, Md. (Kathy Stewart/WTOP)

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

LANDOVER, Md. - The battle over control of a mega church in Prince George's County continued Sunday as supporters held a peaceful protest for a pastor who was fired last week.

The protests were held while Sunday service was taking place inside the church.

Elder Joel Peebles Sr. was fired by the Jericho City of Praise church's board of trustees and had his church membership revoked Wednesday.

The protesters called Peebles' ousting a hostile takeover. Peebles' mother co-founded the church.

"Another pastor has been involved in a plot to take over the church," protester Rod Chavez, a member of the church for 12 years, said.

"That's what this is all about, to have money benefiting to them."

Chavez has had his membership revoked, which he said is because of his support of Peebles. Deana Bass, a spokeswoman for Peebles, said six people have had their membership stripped away and she says in the history of the church that has never happened.

The church, which has more than 10,000 members, has been in a legal struggle ever since co-founder Betty Peebles died in October 2010. In her will, she left control of the church to the board. But supporters of Joel Peebles say the current board was installed rather then being voted into place. They call it a rogue board and that Joel Peebles has been railroaded out.

Peebles did challenge the board's authority in court, saying his mother always intended for him to take over.

A Prince George's Circuit Court judge ruled the board had the authority to run the church operations. Peebles has appealed.

A statement released by the church's board says Peebles was fired for trying to run a for-profit company from the church.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)